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Decolonisation: About this Guide

The UEA Library Decolonisation Guide

This guide was initiated in 2021 by the UEA Library Staff, and developed through work and discussion with colleagues within and beyond UEA. It represents UEA Library’s view on decolonisation and its relevance to our Library and UK HEI Libraries in general. The aim is to engage with our students and academic community in critical debate, bringing to the fore the need for critical thinking implicit and inherent to communicating information, and a central pillar of information literacy, a key tenant of Librarianship. We recognise that Libraries are not neutral spaces, and students need to be equipped with critical thinking skills to navigate the information landscape, to seek out views and voices beyond those we have typically curated, and to challenge us to develop our library collection to include voices from all cultures and communities around the globe. 

UEA Library and Anti-Racism

As we develop our understanding of the role the UEA Library can play within the UEA community in challenging racism, we recognise the need for more support for staff and more structure to support these activities in the Library. An Anti-Racism Group was set up in UEA Library in September 2021 for any Library staff who wished to participate. This group will lead on the ‘Decolonise UEA Library’ project, but also look to develop resources in the following areas: 

  • Events and Activities 

  • Information and Resources 

  • Library Policies 

  • Staff Training 

This group meets twice a year, and shares information via a Teams Channel which is open to all Library staff. If you wish to contact the Library Anti-Racism Group please email decolonise.lib@uea.ac.uk  

Current Anti-Racism work within the Library

  • 'Decolonise UEA Library' actively seeks input from the UEA community to co-curate our collection by suggesting titles we should add to our collection. 
  • We highlight aspects of our collection throughout the year through physical displays and online reading lists. 
  • Academic Librarians engage with students on the issue of decolonisation through information skills teaching, where students are encouraged to critically analyse resources, including thinking about their potential biases.
  • The Library provides online support for Zotero bibliography researchathons – a process by which collating a collective bibliography of materials brings together a plurality of critical perspectives promoting academic discussion and debate across disciplines.  
  • Library Staff are currently undertaking a review of the Library Collection Development Policy to ensure the principle of inclusivity is foregrounded within our collections activities and practice.
  • UEA Library is currently participating in a research project looking at Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in UK Higher Education Libraries from Black students' perspectives. The outcomes of the project should help provide an evidence-base stemming directly from the student voice which will enable us to consider how to improve our services.
  • We collaborate widely within UEA itself to help further our work on decolonisation, including the Decolonising Network Working Group, Decolonise UEA Society, DecoloniseHUM, and the Vice-Chancellor's Taskforce on Tackling Racism.

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Upside down map of the world

About the 'Decolonise UEA Library' campaign

The Black Lives Matter movement and death of George Floyd in 2020 had a strong impact on the Library and the wider UEA Community. While issues of decolonisation in Libraries had been frequently discussed between Library staff and had been an intense topic of conversation at library conferences for many years, UEA Library had not yet created any specific library resources or guidance, and we felt strongly that we needed to change that and curate a resource that would help students and staff engage with the issues. 

Students were also directly challenging us to improve the representation of marginalised voices through our collection, highlighting the fact that the dominant voice represented in some course reading lists was still a white male. Students asked us to do more. 

UEA Library invested in our resources in 2020-21 which helped improve our collections: 

We already routinely purchased any items students suggested to us, which of course included any items requested to help better represent marginalised voices in our collections. However, we realised that we could do more to engage with students on this and explicitly request their help in developing our collections and acquiring resources. Students also challenged us to acknowledge that issues in the searching and discovering items in the collection exist in our information structures and asked us to think of ways to address this. 

In collaboration with the SU, we created ‘Decolonise UEA Library’ and launched this in September 2021, to explicitly request student’s help in decolonising our library through the acquisition of more diverse materials. We also worked with our Library Search system provider to create a digital sticker of the ‘Decolonise UEA Library’ logo, which appears in Library Search alongside any item we have purchased through this campaign. Over time, we hope this campaign will help us to build this collection, and help us find new ways to help students discover these resources through our search facilities.